How to Wallpaper a Room (Step-by-Step Guide)

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From this guide, you’ll learn how to wallpaper a room. We’ll look at the whole process from start to finish and provide you with some top tips to make everything go as smoothly as possible.

As with most things DIY, good preparation is key to doing a great job. So be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time prepping the walls to get an amazing finish. This includes removing all the old wallpaper (if needed) and filling in cracks and holes in the plaster.

How to calculate how much wallpaper you need to decorate a room

Wallpaper rolls typically measure 33′ (10m) long and 21″ (535mm) wide. If the room you’re decorating has a ceiling height of 9′ (2760mm) you’ll get three drops of wallpaper per roll.

Allow a few inches per cut length for trimming the top and bottom off each strip. Allow more if the wallpaper has a large pattern repeat.

To calculate how many wallpaper rolls you need, measure the walls of the room. In a rectangular room, you only need to measure two walls because opposite walls are the same length. You could measure the room on your own, but it’s easier, quicker and more reliable if somebody helps you.

Make a note of all the measurements, rounding up to the nearest inch. Now divide the total by 21″ or 535mm.

This figure tells you how many drops of wallpaper you need.

If you get three lengths from each roll divide the number of drops by three to calculate how many rolls you need.

The final calculation

  1. The walls measure 756″ (18900mm) in total and the ceiling height is 9ft (2760mm) allowing three drops from each roll
  2. 756″ (18900mm) ÷ 21″ (535mm) = 36 drops of wallpaper
  3. 36 drops of wallpaper ÷ 3 drops per roll = 12 rolls

Based on this calculation I would purchase 13 rolls of wallpaper which includes one spare roll for any mishaps etc.

Online wallpaper calculators

I appreciate this is a rather old school way of working out how much wallpaper you need to decorate a room, but it still works.

If you prefer to use an online wallpaper calculator that does all the working out for you, here are some worth checking out.

It’s always better to have too much wallpaper

Always buy an extra roll of wallpaper in case of mistakes or you need to make repairs in the future. I don’t deduct too much paper for doors and windows from the total as it’s always better to have more than you need. Most DIY stores will credit you for any rolls you return. And there’s nothing worse than the store not having any stock of your chosen wallpaper should you run short.

Planning where to start the wallpapering depends on the room itself. If you have a main feature in the room such as a fireplace then this is your starting point. (this applies more to patterned paper, but it is something I have always done regardless of the paper being used).

The first strip of wallpaper you hang should be central to the fireplace and needs to be perfectly vertical (this is where the plumb line is invaluable) as this strip determines how straight the other strips will be.

Make sure you buy wallpaper rolls with the same batch number

When you buy your chosen wallpaper, be sure to check the batch numbers and/or colour number codes on each roll are the same. The reason for doing this is to ensure all rolls have the same pattern and colouring. Two rolls with different batch numbers may vary slightly because they were made at a different time, hence the term ‘batch’.

This doesn’t apply to lining paper, by the way.

How to remove wallpaper

Are you looking for a quick and easy way to remove wallpaper before decorating? Sorry to burst your bubble but there isn’t one! Every method I know is messy and takes forever. With that said, there is one method that outshines the rest – using an electric steamer. 

These things make removing wallpaper so much easier than the other popular method of using hot water and vinegar. I’ll explain both methods in more detail later. First, though, let’s look at the tools and equipment you’ll need and how to prepare your room.

What tools do you need to remove wallpaper?

  • Wallpaper steamer (optional, but recommended)
  • Wallpaper scraper or putty knife – start with a wide one but have a narrow one handy too
  • Step ladder
  • Water, rags and a bowl
  • Dust sheets for covering the floor and/or furniture
  • Gloves (optional)
  • Large bin liners

How to prepare a room before stripping wallpaper from an interior wall

  • Take as much furniture and other content out of the room as possible. If you can’t take it out of the room, move it away from the walls and place it in the centre of the room.
  • If you can’t completely clear the room, cover the furniture with dust sheets.
  • Remove pictures, mirrors etc from walls and check there aren’t any nails or screws sitting proud of the surface. If you find any, remove them.
  • Cover the floor with a protective covering. Some folks use plastic but water can make that kind of surface a little slippy so you may prefer dust sheets or old bedsheets.

How to remove wallpaper – the dry method

Have a look around the room at the current state of the wallpaper. Are there any loose pieces you can easily remove without wetting the wallpaper? If so, go ahead and do that. Remove as much as you can using this method.

If there aren’t any obvious places to start, try the bottom corner of any piece you like. Get your scraper under the corner and try to remove some paper from the wall to give you a bit of leeway. 

Corners are often a good place to start because they tend to hold the least amount of paste. 

Once you’ve freed one corner, try the other one on the same strip. When they’re both free, grab each one and try to pull the entire strip off the wall. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s definitely worth trying as you could save yourself a ton of time and effort.

What often happens when you do this you pull off the top layer of the wallpaper while the backing remains attached to the wall. This isn’t perfect, but it does make it easier to remove later on.

Put all the paper into the large bin liners as you go. 

Once you’ve removed as much wallpaper as you can using this dry method, it’s time to start getting serious. Put the kettle on!

Yes, it’s time for a brew and you’re going to need hot water for the next stage. 

How to use a steamer to remove wallpaper

A wallpaper steamer is the best tool to use to remove wallpaper. It’s fast, efficient and you can quickly strip a large room.

These things are cheap, last for ages and save so much time, that buying one is a no-brainer. I use one every time I need to remove wallpaper and pass it around the family when they’re decorating.

There is a downside to using a wallpaper steamer, as there is when you don’t use a wallpaper steamer – it’s messy. Water droplets trickle down the wall and onto your skirting boards and laminate flooring. And could get into light switches and electrical sockets.

So it’s best to take precautions to prevent this from happening by covering the light switches and electric sockets to stop water from getting into the wiring – plastic is a good choice.

What does a wallpaper steamer look like and how does it work?

If you’ve never seen one before, a wallpaper steamer has a form similar to a canister vacuum cleaner and works like a kettle.

The steamer has a plastic water chamber that houses a heating element. A plastic hose leads from the chamber to a flat plastic handle a little larger than your hand (known as a steam plate).

Once you’ve added warm or cold water to the chamber (warm is best to reduce waiting time) and switched it on, the steam travels down the plastic hose and out into the plate, which you hold against the wall for a few seconds to allow the steam to penetrate the wallpaper to loosen the paste.

Once the steam has soaked in and started breaking down the adhesive holding the paper to the wall, you go at it with your scraper.

In most cases, the wallpaper will come away from the wall with ease.

How to use a wallpaper steamer

The first thing you want to do is fill the water chamber with water and bring it to boiling point so it’s generating steam. On the side of the chamber, you’ll find a fill level clearly marked. Fill it to that point but no higher.

It can take several minutes to start steaming, depending on the temperature of the water you put in the tank. When the steam reaches the steam plate, it’ll start spitting out.

When you see the steam coming down the pipe and out near the steam plate, put it up against the wallpaper so it starts to work its magic.

I find the best place to start is at the top of the wall in one corner. Some people prefer to start at the bottom or middle of the wall!

I don’t leave the plate in one place for too long. Instead, I move it around (mostly horizontally) to cover small areas at a time. This reduces the chances of the steam cracking the plaster.

A word of warning – don’t leave the plate in one place for too long because you could seriously damage the plaster. In some cases, depending on the condition of the plaster, it can happen within a few seconds.

After a short time, using a wallpaper scraper, lift up the edge of the strip of wallpaper you’re working on. If you can do that, work the scraper in some more to remove more of the wallpaper. If you can’t, apply some more steam for a few seconds then try again.

Now it’s a matter of repeating the process around the rest of the room.

How to use a steamer on non-porous wallpapers

If the wallpaper you want to remove is non-porous, you’ll need to take measures to reverse that situation so the steam can get through the wallpaper to the paste.

The easiest way to do this is by scoring the wallpaper to create access points for the steam. You could use a utility knife for this job, but a better option is a tool called a wallpaper perforator.

This is a small inexpensive tool that you roll along the surface of the wallpaper to create dozens of little holes. The holes allow the steam to break down the wallpaper paste. The secret to using one of these tools is to press lightly. You don’t want to score the plaster, just the wallpaper.

Safety measures to take when working with a steamer to remove wallpaper

Working with boiling water and steam can be incredibly dangerous so it’s wise to take a few precautions when using a steamer to remove wallpaper. If you follow the principles we apply to kettle use, you won’t go far wrong.

  • Never let the water chamber of the steamer run dry.
  • If the water chamber does reach a dangerously low level, switch it off and let it cool for a few minutes before topping it up with fresh water.
  • Always keep the body of the steamer on a flat surface. The floor is a good place but you run the risk of kicking it over or walking into it (especially if you don’t tidy up as you go).
  • Have a tray or bucket big enough to hold the steam plate because there may be times when you need to put it down so you can do something else. Switching off a boiling steamer will not stop the steam from travelling down the pipe and out into the plate. So catching the water droplets in a tray or bucket is better than letting them soak into your carpet, laminate flooring or between floorboards.
  • Tidy up as you work your way around the room.
  • Have a jug of water at hand to top up the steamer should it run low.
  • Wear gloves and goggles to protect your hands and eyes.

Questions and answers

How to remove wallpaper without a steamer

The other method for removing wallpaper follows the same principles but takes more elbow grease and time.

Depending on the size of your room, you might want to do one wall at a time.

The idea here is to combine equal parts boiling water and vinegar in a bowl, bucket or spray bottle, then apply the mix to the wall. The hot wallpaper loosens the wallpaper paste and the vinegar helps it dissolve. Once you’ve done that, leave it to soak for 5-10 minutes before removing the wallpaper with your scraper.

If you’re using the bucket or bowl method and hot/boiling water, use a sponge to apply the water. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.

Once you’ve removed all the main pieces of wallpaper, go back over the walls to remove the smaller bits. A lot of these will be tricky to see. Use your scraper to find and remove them.

If you wait for the wall and leftover pieces of paper to dry out, you might be able to use a stiff-ish brush to remove them.

The key to great decorating is thorough preparation so don’t skimp on the final checks. Be sure to go over every surface several times to make sure all the pieces of wallpaper are removed.

Once you’re happy everything is in order, start the next stage, which will either be fixing cracks and marks, rewallpapering or painting.

Pasting and hanging the first strip of wallpaper

It’s important to get this right – the rest of the job depends on it. Before you start, put the pasting table on top of a dustsheet on the floor and have all your wallpapering tools ready to use nearby.

Tools and equipment needed to wallpaper a room

  • Wallpaper
  • Wallpaper paste
  • One or two buckets
  • Large flat work surface or pasting table
  • Tape measure
  • Plumb line or spirit level
  • Step ladder
  • Pasting brush
  • Utility knife
  • Seam roller
  • Large scissors
  • Wallpaper brush

For more details, check out this more detailed list of home decorating equipment and tools.

Before you paste the first strip of wallpaper, use a plumb line or spirit level and pencil to mark a vertical guideline on the wall. It should be approximately 1/2″ (12mm) away from the edge of the first strip of wallpaper. As shown in the image below.

fig 1

I always have two buckets or trays; one for the wallpaper paste and the other half-filled with warm water and a clean cloth for wiping down the pasting table. Do this after pasting each strip of wallpaper, thus ensuring no paste is left behind to stick to the next one.

Read the wallpaper paste manufacturer’s instructions as it normally requires a short standing time when mixed. And different quantities of water are added to suit the wallpaper being used.

Cut the first strip of wallpaper to length remembering to add 6″ (150mm) for trimming. Place it face down on the pasting table.

Check the wallpaper has the correct orientation. Apply the paste from the centre of the paper in a herringbone fashion making sure all the paper is covered. Especially corners and edges.

The strip of wallpaper will more than likely be longer than the pasting table. When you’ve pasted as far along the table as you can, fold the pasted paper back on itself concertina style.

fig 2

Wipe away any paste on the table. Slide the strip of wallpaper along the table and paste the remaining area until the whole length is pasted.

Set this strip down to one side and allow the paste to soak in. Each roll of wallpaper usually has instructions with regard to soaking times. While it’s soaking, wipe down the table ready for the next strip of wallpaper.

(Wallpaper expands when pasted so the soaking time allows for this to occur before it is hung on the wall).

When the wallpaper has had adequate time to soak it is ready to hang

Starting at the top of the wall, unravel the first wallpaper strip and stick it to the wall. Checking all the time that the edge is inline with your plumb line.

The first 2 – 3ft (600 – 900mm) of wallpaper can be ‘tacked on’ to make it easier to line up. When the wallpaper edge is inline with the plumb line, use a wallpaper brush to create a firmer fixing.

Now unravel each section of the ‘concertina’ of wallpaper brushing it flat as you go until you reach the bottom. Go back over it brushing out any trapped air bubbles. Follow the same herringbone pattern from the centre, checking all the edges are stuck down.

Trimming the wallpaper

Now you are ready to trim the top and bottom of the strip of wallpaper.

Brush the wallpaper into the top edge as best you can then using the back edge of your wallpaper scissors. Run them along the edge (not pressing too hard as the wallpaper may tear).

Now pull down towards you the excess wallpaper. The scissors should have left an impression which will give you a guide line for trimming the wallpaper.

Once this is cut, brush the wallpaper back.

Repeat this to trim the bottom edge to the top of the skirting board.

Wipe away any paste that will probably be on the ceiling and skirting board using your cloth and warm water.

How to wallpaper around corners

Corners of walls are rarely perfectly square. When you reach a corner, cut the  strip of wallpaper the required width to reach the corner plus 1″ (25mm).

This will allow the wallpaper to just go around the corner by 1″ (25mm).

If this 1″ (25mm) section of wallpaper won’t stick flat on the wall, make little cuts so it overlaps itself.

fig 1

Using a tape measure, measure out from the corner the width of the soaked wallpaper plus 1/2″ (12mm).

Mark this measurement on the wall in pencil. Using your plumb line hanging in line with the pencil mark, mark a vertical guide line down the wall.

Hang the next strip of wallpaper from the corner covering any cuts you had to make in the previous strip. Make sure the other edge of the strip of wallpaper is inline with your plumb line. When you continue wallpapering, each strip will be hanging perfectly vertical.

fig 2

Using your wallpaper brush, remove any trapped air bubbles. Then trim the excess wallpaper from the top and bottom.

How to wallpaper around windows and inside reveals

Wallpapering around a window and the reveals can be a great way to test your patience. Sometimes it’s straightforward, whilst other times, depending on the condition of the walls and quality of the wallpaper, it’s not.

The method described below is the one I have used in the past. Generally, I’m happy with the results.

Take extra care when wallpapering around windows and reveals. The wallpaper easily tear because as the cuts take time to do, the wallpaper has more time to soak.

I always start as shown in the image below, with wallpaper strip No 1. This strip when cut as shown will cover a section of the wall above the window.

fig 1

A section of the top window reveal and 1/2″ (12mm) of the top of the side reveal.

This 1/2″ (12mm) section is to hide any discrepancies if the window reveal is not square when the next strip of wallpaper is hung in place (No 2).

Use your wallpaper brush to remove any air bubbles and push the wallpaper into the corners ready for trimming.

This next images shows you where to cut the second strip of wallpaper.

fig 2

This strip covers a section of wall above the window, the side reveal and a section below the window. Although there will be a small overlap above the window I have always found this to be virtually unnoticeable. Even less so when curtain rails etc are fitted.

Use your plumb line to ensure the strip hangs perfectly vertical before making cuts for the reveal and window sill.

I prefer to repeat this method on the opposite side of the window. Then hang wallpaper strips to cover the gaps in between the top and bottom of the window and the top reveal. Small overlaps of wallpaper are generally unnoticeable as they are hidden by curtain poles above, and radiators below the window. If the overlaps won’t stick properly, let the paper dry and use overlap or border adhesive to fix the issue.

Remember to wipe clean the window frame and sill of any wallpaper paste that may be present.

How to cut wallpaper around light switches and electrical sockets

When you have a power socket, light switch or TV aerial outlet etc, that needs to be wallpapered around, use a small set of scissors around 4″ – 5″ (100 -125mm) long to make the appropriate cuts in the paper.

Hang the strip of wallpaper as you would normally from the top. When you reach the power socket or light switch, make four cuts in the paper from approximately the centre to each of  its outer corners.

fig 1

Cut these four flaps of wallpaper down to leave an overlap of around 3/16″ (8mm).

fig 2

Turn off the main switch at the consumer unit and remove the appropriate circuit fuse or miniature circuit breaker (MCB). Check that the power socket etc is ‘dead’ (no voltage present).

Loosen the fixing screws holding the power socket in place. Using the wallpaper brush, guide the remainder of your flaps of wallpaper behind the power socket. Look for blobs of wallpaper paste that may have dripped onto the electrical connections on the back of the power socket. If there are any present remove them with a dry paint brush and/or a cloth.

Wait until the wallpaper paste has dried out, then replace the circuit fuse or MCB and switch the consumer unit back on. Check the power socket is working correctly.

How to wallpaper a ceiling

To wallpaper a ceiling, ideally, you need some form of platform to stand on. It should be strong and sturdy so it can take your weight and it won’t topple over.

Two pairs of trestles or step ladders with a rigid walk board in between are ideal for the task.

Take great care you don’t lose your footing or lean out too far. Even a fall from a relatively low height could result in an avoidable trip to the local A & E department.

Start from what you consider to be the straightest edge on the ceiling.

Cut to length and paste the first strip of wallpaper. Fold it into the concertina shape allowing 6″ (150mm) for trimming.

Once the wallpaper has had time to soak, start sticking it to the ceiling. Brush it flat with your wallpaper brush. Continue straight across the ceiling until the whole length of wallpaper is stuck down flat. Then go back over the strip brushing out any trapped air bubbles.

Trim to length and brush into the edges.

Patterned wallpaper

If you are wallpapering the ceiling with a patterned paper, put a pencil mark on the wallpaper pattern on the strip already on the ceiling, say 12″ (300mm) from the ‘start end’ and then put a pencil mark on the next strip where the pattern matches up.

If you do this you will spend less time trying to match the pattern up whilst holding the soaked wallpaper up against the ceiling and therefore reduce fatigue on your arms.

This second strip of wallpaper should again be brushed flat and the edge should be butt up to the previous strip, making sure all the edge of the wallpaper is stuck down properly.

If the last strip of wallpaper on the ceiling is only narrow in width, then cut the whole length of the strip down to the required width plus 2″ (50mm), this will stop the weight of the soaked wallpaper from pulling it away from the ceiling before you have time to trim it to size.

Now it’s your turn

There you have it. The process for wallpapering a room. I hope you’ve found this guide useful.